January 7, 2016

The art of the story in content creation

Storytelling isn’t limited to the creative arts. Chances are, when you walked into the office you shared a story about your weekend, your evening, or the idiot that nearly caused an accident on the roads this morning. Stories are a way of communication as well as a way of connecting.

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While we all have experience telling stories, it does take some craft to tell a good one, one that is worth remembering or that provides a meaningful connection. Once we know the craft we can utilize storytelling techniques in every piece of content that we produce, raising the likelihood of a meaningful connection with our audience.

Increasingly, we are seeing this kind of storytelling being utilized in advertising, brand management, marketing and online presences. Big brands like Vans and GoPro are producing imaginative and engaging content in the forms of video documentaries sharing the amazing stories of creatives and skydivers alike.

We know that the current marketing and advertisement climate is consistently moving away from interruption marketing, away from pop-ups and newspaper adverts. We are in the age of editorial pieces, ‘insta-famous’ user endorsement, and imaginative and complex content creation.

This seems all well and good, but what if your brand isn’t GoPro? Can you really create an engaging story about a packet of biscuits or a dental practice?

With the right content marketing strategy, I’m inclined to say yes.

Honey Maid is an American biscuit company who have sold graham crackers for over 90 years. In 2014, they launched their “This Is Wholesome” campaign by producing a series of short movies celebrating a variety of ‘wholesome’ families. Through this campaign and the art of storytelling, Honey Maid turned a biscuit with a high level of competitors into a necessary element for a wholesome, happy family.

They are not alone in this new wave of story driven marketing either. We are seeing countless examples of interesting and even inspiring content being produced by companies and brands. They are producing content that is on its own sharable and marketable even without its association to the brand.

But can this be brought smaller? Into the everyday writing tasks of small business? What if this narrative story-telling could be used in your blog articles, your web pages, your social media posts? What if the thrill of a good story, the engagement and satisfaction of a reader could be harnessed and directed towards your brand?

I believe it can.

Here are some simple ways to bring these big concepts into small scale writing projects.

Character

Establishing a protagonist is arguably the most important aspect of writing creatively. People need to identify with someone when reading or viewing content in order to relate it to themselves and promote a meaningful impact.

Depending on the product or service, these characters can be presented as a variety of players.

The happy patient

Testimonials, documentaries and stories that show a product’s impact on a real life customer will have an big impact on the way a reader interacts with and trusts your product. If another consumer has tried your product or service and had a positive experience, it is highly likely that this endorsement will boost the trust for your brand.

The business owner

The same happens when you bring yourself into the picture. Trust is a huge part of building relationships with your audience. Sharing yourself, your experiences, a funny story or two, will go a long way to showing you are a real human being who is trustworthy and authentic. This will aid in establishing a connection between yourself and the potential buyers.

The reader

How do you want to address the reader? Will you speak in third person? Will you directly address them as if you were in conversation? Establishing the reader as involved in the article through your writing style will mean there are fewer steps left to make it relatable.

Structure

“People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or end anymore. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning. “– Steven Spielberg

The narrative arc has been in use for centuries, it’s even older than ancient Greek dramaturgy. We see it in movies, plays, novels, comics, poetry and video games – practically any story-telling method. Shakespeare and Aristotle used it and it is everywhere in Hollywood. The narrative arc is separated into three acts or scenes described as the setup, confrontation and resolution – or beginning, middle and end.

Following the narrative arc may seem daunting but it will make a noticeable difference. All pieces of writing benefit from follow a beginning, middle and end. This natural progression allows for easy reading and engagement. It is straight forward and rewarding to the reader.

Tension

In all stories, the protagonist comes across a problem. This may be an antagonist or an internal struggle, a quest or mission. This is where you talk about yellow, dull teeth when suggesting a teeth whitening treatment, or flimsy unreliable products in contrast to your own.

Readers respond well to tension, as it can be a driving force for action. Providing an appropriate level of tension, opposition or problems can push potential buyers to make a decision to buy.

All articles and pages should create an appropriate level of tension for the reader. Instead of simply listing information about a product or service, paint a picture of a problem where your product is the answer. If reader can see they need what you are selling, there is no reason not to buy.

Implementing these simple techniques into your writing can have a big impact on the way your readership view your pages and posts. With the vast expanses of the internet before them, why would your audience spend time reading a boring article? Stories make life interesting – use them!